"When the Beatles played on American TV, my fate was sealed"
As a trumpet, keyboard, guitar and bass player, can you remember what it was that first got you turned on to music? Can you name any records that had an impression on you while growing up?
I liked all kinds of music as a young boy. Classical piano, orchestras, chorus music, swing jazz. Before I played any instrument, I would go to square dances at the Knights of Columbus hall in our small town. I was amazed how a very corny sounding country band could make a sound that would get everyone up on the floor dancing like crazy. Music=dance=ecstasy... They had a piano, a fiddle, a crude drum trap set, a trumpet and a square dance caller. No bass or guitar, but it was a magic to a young boy.
Later I would marvel at the local rock and roll bands that played Les Pauls and SGs, through Fender amps. I'd sit on the fence in my Grandma's backyard and watch the bands play for dances in the local saloon. They rocked the joint like nobody's business. It was all good.
When the Beatles played on American TV, my fate was sealed.
Some important recordings for me: The Ventures "Walk Don't Run", The Beach Boys' Today album, Rubber Soul and Revolver by The Beatles, Booker T. and the MGs "Green Onions", and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
Looking back, do you ever regret not spending more time on a particular song (or even album), either in the Blue Öyster Cult days, or in your various bands since?
I don't have too many regrets about songwriting. It was a pretty random thing for me in the early days. I spend a lot more time now writing and re-writing songs.
I didn't have much to say about the BOC albums. Being the bass player, I would cut live tracks with Albert on drums. It would only take a few days. If I had to fix any parts that would take only a few hours. After that I was done. Guitars and vocals could take weeks to do. I didn't produce those albums so it was up to other people to tell me if it was done or not. I was pretty quick with my parts.
My songs were written very fast with BOC. I could write a song in an hour or two like on "Screams", "Hot Rails to Hell", and "Astronomy". Also "Fallen Angel" and "Light Years of Love" were written pretty easily.
I was amazed that Don Roeser took 9 days to write "Reaper" in his basement studio.
Ian Hunter taught me about songwriting in 2000-2001 when we co-wrote songs for BDS. But most of what I write is pretty unplanned.
You've been involved in many (very many!) projects since you left BOC in 1986: BDS (Bouchard, Dunaway & Smith), Deadringer, X Brothers, TreeTop Blues Band, solo projects, sessions, producing, educational books and DVDs, lectures, seminars... Which of these did you find most challenging?
BDS took forever to do (close to a full year), mostly because I was not that comfortable with the software, but also because Neal and Dennis were very picky about their parts and how the production sounded. My speakers and headphones were lousy. It was all mixed and remixed many times.
Other projects went much faster. The X Brothers took about 45 days from tracking to final mastering. Deadringer, I had no say in that production, took 30 days from beginning to end.
My solo album, Jukebox in My Head, was done pretty quick, about 4 months. The hardest part was re-writing some songs, adding last minute instrumentals, and the final mixing.
Writing my first book, Rock Guitar For Beginners, was very challenging, since I didn't have a clear idea of what I was doing. The later books were easier. The DVDs were fairly easy and only took one day to do.
I'm pretty lucky since my chosen vocation comes pretty easy. I don't pretend to be a virtuoso like Eric Clapton or Stevie Wonder, but I can usually get the job done. People seem to like my work.
Some producers view their role as simply capturing a band's sound, others as setting a creative mood, others as getting a great performance... What about you? What is your approach as a producer, on both a technical and human level?
I try to serve the song more than anything else. If the songs work I don't worry about an over "band sound". Maybe if I had a big budget I'd worry about sounds, but most of my recordings are DIY affairs and I'm happy with the results. If anything, one has to be careful not to be too neat and clean with digital recordings today. Dirty is better sometimes. The Blue Coupe's Tornado on the Tracks is a very messy album, but people love it. It had a certain charm and a believable sound.
If you were to bump into a teenage version of you, what advice would you give yourself?
Follow your heart and stick up for what you believe in. Strive for great art and don't worry about money. With great art you can always negotiate for better money. Believe in yourself. The rest will come.
Joe Bouchard's official website : www.joebouchard.com